Writing MovieWRONGS

By Jim West


Directed by Todd Phillips

Written by Todd Phillips and Scott Silver

The Joker has long been amongst the top villains in comic book history, and here we have a gritty origin style film which gifts us with perhaps Joaquin Phoenix’s best performance of his career.  Masterfully shot and with what I believe is a stroke of cinematic genius (more on this later), this film gets the ‘Writing a Movie RIGHT’ review.

Here comes the spoilers.

Joaquin Phoenix sinks into this character of Arthur Fleck and plays him with such a fragile balance between humanity and insanity.  His tear during the opening scene is such foreshadow to the tragedy of his life we will get to see unfolded throughout the film.  This Gotham is set in the 70’s and times are tough in the city.  Clinging unto this job is his way to support himself and his mother.  The director gives us just the right glimpses into his life and captures the right perspectives.  Now what I found amazing whether or not the director intended this on purpose is the framing of the Joker.  In most of the film Joaquin is framed either to the left or right of the cameras center.  The background is centered, but he is not.  I think this is to show us he is “off” with the world.  Now later on the film we get to see the world from the Joker’s perspective and this is where he is now center frame and the background of the world is off center to show how he is right and the world is “off”.  I think this is masterful and brilliant.  It took a second viewing for me to confirm this for myself.

Arthur gets assaulted by a group of kids and his coworker gives him a gun for protection to which later he loses his job due to bringing a gun to a children’s hospital.  His downward descent slowly spirals ever downward as he gets attacked by three businessmen on a late night train, and Arthur kills all three of them with the gun.  He discovers a letter his mother wrote to Thomas Wayne, the Billionaire, whom she worked for years ago and claims Arthur is his son. Arthur gets into a heated argument with his mother then leaves to go to the Wayne Estate where he meets a young Bruce Wayne and eventually runs off.  Arthur gets home to find his mother is being taken to the hospital.  Detectives are asking him his whereabouts as they suspect he may be responsible for the shootings on the train.  Arthur sneaks into a public event where he is able to confront Thomas Wayne who tells him he is adopted by his mother and was not his son.  Arthur goes to Arkham Hospital and steals his mother’s file that confirms he was adopted and his mother allowed him to be severely abused by her boyfriend.  Arthur goes to see his mother and complete his descent into madness by killing her.  He goes into the neighbor’s apartment, who earlier in the film we got the impression he was dating her, but then the reveal that all of those scenes were just in his head is suddenly both unsettling yet completely awe inspiring as this is truly the level of disillusion he has come to.

This is a film that demand at least one repeat viewing to truly appreciate both the performance of Joaquin and the superb direction by Todd Phillips.  An origin story told masterfully with solid writing that simply gets right down to brass tacks.  There is little that could be cut from this film, and I would be keen to see what scenes were cut from the theatrical release.  Fully expect Joaquin to get a nomination for his performance in Joker, and that is no laughing matter.

Thanks for reading Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.   

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